Born: around 1790
Died: after 1828
Family relationship: Son of Hannah and Dick; brother of Dick, Wilson, Spotswood, Jesse, Charles, a sister (name unknown) and two other brothers (names unknown)
Role: Blacksmith

Nelson was born enslaved to Charlottesville resident Peter Marks, who purchased property from James Monroe in 1790 and mortgaged 33 individuals as part of the agreement. Nelson’s mother Hannah was purchased as a cook for the Monroes in 1796, along with Nelson and her two other young sons. The older sons, Spotswood and Charles, were also purchased by Monroe, either at this time, or later. Jesse, a sixth son, was already at Highland with overseer Hogg, in plantation operation before the Monroes took up residence. Nelson was described as a blacksmith in an 1825 mortgage. He was sold locally between late 1827 and early 1828. This local sale meant that Nelson was not part of the group sale from Highland to the Florida territory in 1828.

James Monroe to Joseph Jones

“Paris Sepr 4. 1794

I have a real desire that Mr Marks be relieved from the contract with me and with the loss on my part of abt £500 to be paid in favor of his wife & children. This will leave due me including the interest of last year (of wh abt £15 was overpd) £1060 & which you may take in money; slaves at their value & a <illegible> an adequate one; good bonds upon interest for one half & the residue in money, or even the whole in bonds if you think fit; or part in slaves & part in land of good quality, and which may possibly suit both parties provided the land be really good and obtainable at a proper price for I hear Birch wants the lotts & his land. If you take slaves have in view those which will suit me; we shall not want more than one female servant & her with Mr Nicholas in preference to any other from her character; three boys for servants and the rest for the field & trades. I wish to apply to some trade, but if he declines to remain with Peter as gardener &c for the lower farm. I want a lad to be sent to the b. smith trade*, one or two to the carpenters, & one the bricklayers.”

*While James Monroe was in France, he sent instructions to his uncle about arrangements for acquiring enslaved people from Peter Marks and what their roles should be. It is most likely Nelson was the “lad sent to the b.smith trade” since he was acquired from Peter Marks a year and five months later, then documented as an adult as a blacksmith.

Courtesy of the Papers of James Monroe;

Joseph Jones to James Monroe

“Fredg 16th Janry 1796

P. Marks is also dead I before informed you of the death of his wife. In consequence the Trustees have agreed to sell the negros and Lotts to raise the amount of your demand …

 The last Court day was appointed for the Sale, I attended But the business was but in part done one half of the Slaves not appearing, all except three that were present were sold and very high. It was my intention to have bought old Dick his wife and all the children as the best Characters among them but on the day of sale I found there was little hope of effecting my design as Dick had prevailed on one of the Marks to buy him and allow him the privilege of working out his freedom. Hudson Martins wife was anxious to get a boy called Dick abt 15 or 16 years old on acct of his having been brot up among her children and the next youngest boy Wilson I think some other had promised to buy so that the first sold for upwards of £100 and the last for upwards £95.

Hannah the mother and three small Boys* I have purchased for you at the price of £145. She is the mother of Jesse and esteemed a good Servant and tolerable good Cook the youngest boy abt a year old the eldest six or seven – Spotswood who lives with Watson and another called Charles who last year lived with Bob Jouett are yet to sell also a very likely young mulatto woman and child a Daughter of Hannahs—also an elderly man called Julius who lived last year with Hog but who was unable to attend the former sale. I shall endeavor to buy for you Spotswood and Charles as the mother and themselves are desirous of being together but they will particularly Spotswood go very high as Watson and others want him and Watson has offered for him 100£ he will sell for at least 120£–Negros are near 50% higher than a few years past greatly I think above their worth but the late high prices of wheat corn and Tobacco have occasioned it, they hire now at 20 pr ann. for a man—dear as they are I shall endeavor to buy Spotswood Charles and Julius as you much want hands and having not hired any for the present year it is indispensably necessary to add to Solomon his wife and Jesse at Hogs some others if to be got.

*Twenty-nine years later in 1825, Nelson was noted as being a brother of Charles and Jesse, who were purchased in the same transaction below. He is likely one of the “three small Boys” mentioned but unnamed.

Courtesy of the Papers of James Monroe:

Albemarle County Deed Book (25:143)

James Monroe mortgaged Limestone Farm and 21 enslaved people to John Hooff, Cashier of the Farmer’s Bank of Alexandria for $4,735.76. It is difficult to determine whether the individuals listed are at Limestone or at Highland.

“April 5, 1825

Have granted bargained and sold aliened released and confirmed and by these presents do grant bargain and sell alien release and confirm into the said John Hooff* and his heirs a tract of land in the County of Albemarle and the State of Virginia about three miles below Mill on and about one mile from the Rivanna a branch of the James River consisting of seven hundred and eight acres divided into two farms, with a good framed Dwelling house and other improvements on each. Also the following negro slaves, Jesse, Charles, Nelson a Blacksmith, all young men and brothers, William a Carpenter, Joe and Eve his wife and their four children, Armstead and Zachariah both young men, Toby and Betsy his wife with their three children, Solomon and Nancy his wife, Ned & Peggy his wife.”

James Monroe to James Madison

“OAK HILL Sepr 23d. 1827.

The sale of my slaves, &ca, in Albemarle, it is expected will take place in Novr. so that it will be very pa[in]ful to me, to attend there, at the next meeting You shall however hear from me on the subject.”

Courtesy of Founders Online:

Advertisement from the Richmond Enquirer, 2 November 1827

The “first rate Blacksmith” advertised in this sale would have been Nelson:

Courtesy of Early American Newspapers Series 1-5 (1690-1922)

James Monroe to Samuel L. Gouverneur

“Oak Hill 11 Jan. 1828

I have to day rec’d, a letter from Mr. Watson, who informs me, that he had sold Nelson & Charles only, the first at £700, the other at £400. The rest of the people, remain undisposed of, and the sale to Col. White, or any other person, is uncertain … By selling my negroes I may obtain bonds & as the people who purchase them will be known to the [illegible] which they will take, and by being at liberty to sell them to whom, I please, I may get better prices for them, as I presume, than if I sold all to one person.”

Courtesy of the New York Public Library, James Monroe Papers